Frida Kahlo is a behemoth name in the world of art. She has created some of the most iconic and striking paintings; the striking nature of her paintings can be confirmed by looking at ‘The Two Fridas’ painted in 1939.
From the color palette to the brush strokes, everything is perfectly in Kahlo’s style. While the aesthetics of the painting is surely eye-catching, many people miss out on the profound meaning of this masterpiece.
There is a tale being told by the artist, and emotions are conveyed through the canvas. ‘The Two Fridas’ is one of those paintings that are filled to the brim with some hidden meaning.
Let’s take a deeper look at the painting and try to find what the artist was trying to convey through the canvas.
Composition and Structure of ‘The Two Fridas’
The painting is strikingly distinct in the way the colors are used, and the texture of the elements. There is a soft overlay on everything and the background has been kept simple to make sure all the attention goes to the two subjects.
The sky is filled with clouds, but not in a realistic way. The abstract nature of the clouds adds to the effect of the painting. Let’s see what the subjects are doing.
Quite bizarrely, this painting is a self-portrait where the artist shows two versions of herself. The two ‘Fridas’ are sitting on a traditional Mexican foldable bed, holding each other’s hands.
There is a subtle play of color; the Frida in white has a lighter skin tone than the Fridas in the traditional Mexican dress. More on that later.
Now coming to the bizarre part of the image; viewers can see the hearts of both the Fridas. Not just the heart, but the arteries and veins as well. Their hearts are also connected.
One of them is also holding a small locket portrait of Diego Rivera, the husband of Frida Kahlo. So what’s going on here? This painting is painted in a realistic style, yet with abstract and surrealistic elements.
Meaning of ‘The Two Fridas’
Frida Kahlo is known to add more meaning to her paintings than color, and it is a shame that many people know about her paintings just for their visual appeal.
There is a complex set of layers in ‘The Two Fridas’ that describe a sad story in a beautiful way. Let’s look at some historical context to understand this painting better.
Frida and Diego
Frida Kahlo was married to the famous Mexican painter and nationalist Diego Rivera. She was truly in love with the artist, even though their marriage was a rocky one.
Kahlo painted this painting around a year after her divorce from Rivera. While the couple reunited a year later, Kahlo suffered from extreme loneliness and pain during this separation.
The painting is a visual description of this suffering. It tells us about the thoughts the painter had during the period of separation. It is truly fascinating how the painter has managed to tell a lot from a single painting.
Frida Kahlo was half-German and half-Mexican. Diego Rivera preferred the “Mexican” Frida Kahlo. That’s why here in the painting you can see the Mexican version of the painter holding a picture of Rivera.
But what about the other Frida? Or more accurately, the part of Frida Kahlo with European influence? Why is she holding forceps and her heart is bleeding out?
Here’s what’s actually happening in the painting; The hearts of the Fridas are connected to things. The heart of the Mexican Frida is connected to the picture of Rivera.
The heart of the European Frida was connected to something, perhaps the picture of Rivera, but it is gone. To stop the bleeding, she is holding the artery with forceps.
Apart from that, a part of her heart is also missing. This shows the incomplete nature of the European Frida. Perhaps the reason why Rivera left her briefly was that the European Frida was overpowering the Mexican Frida.
The missing part of the heart is meant to show exactly that; something deeply important and necessary missing from the heart of the artist.
The impact of the painting is further increased when you notice the completely casual and unaffected expression on the face of the two women. Even though they are in such pain, everything on the outside is kept completely normal.
Kahlo admitted later that the painting was in fact painted to the loneliness and pain she suffered due to the separation from her husband. The two Fridas are holding hands to support each other.
Theme and Essence of the Painting
The painting is meant to be studied. There is a reason why this painting is painted on a large canvas; the artist wanted people to look at all the little details and elements.
The theme of the painting is the effect of pain and difficult times. While there is a reason the two Fridas exist, even without any reason, we also have a different version of ourselves in our minds.
When in pain or loneliness, we are made aware of the presence of this version of us, and that’s what the painter is trying to show. Note that she is not trying to tell us “there are other versions of you” or anything.
It is just the artist expressing herself through the painting, like poets express through poems or people express through words or actions. Yet it reveals how all of us behave similarly when in pain.